400 years of legal expertise judge National Mock Trial final

The Bar Mock Trial National Final is fast approaching, and here at Young Citizens we are getting ready to watch the best 24 schools compete for the coveted title of National Champions 2019.

This year’s national final will be at Edinburgh Court of Session on the 23rd of March, and promises to be a highly enjoyable event for everyone involved. Overseeing proceedings in court we have twelve judges who collectively provide over 400 years of experience practising the law. You can see the full list of our volunteer judges in the event booklet.

As the lead officer of this unique and compelling competition, I have coordinated twenty-four heats – drawing together students from 200 schools and 1,000 legal professionals with volunteers representing every corner of the UK. Achieving these logistical successes has been deeply rewarding on a professional and personal note; but there was little time to stand around congratulating myself – I had a national final to plan!

Courtroom clashes serve up high drama

Having joined Young Citizens six-months ago, I have been impressed by the level of commitment and resolve the young people display during the courtroom clashes. Watching the students perform is riveting: they are well prepared, articulate and alert during every exchange and examination. Their knowledge of courtroom proceedings is as impressive as the skill showcased by the budding actors, speechwriters and lawyers. The culmination of which leaves you holding your breath until the winner is announced.

The amount of preparation that goes into the competition is not to be underestimated. And balancing it alongside their studies is not always easy for these 15-18 year olds. However, the competition exposes students to a great deal of valuable skills including: logical reasoning, clear communication and teamwork. One participant said:

“As a person with anxiety, I have seen an improvement in my confidence, something that counselling had not been able to provide. I have also been able to explore a career I had never thought of potentially going for.”

One of the mock cases being used at the National Final has been specially written by Jon Kidd and Natalie Cabot at the Metropolitan Police Service. Working with them, we’ve provided students with an interesting and educational case, that makes participants reflect on the topic of hacking/computer misuse, but has enough grey area to push them to think on their feet during the trial.

Together we are empowering the next generation

Coordinating this beautiful machine makes me really feel we are working together to empower the next generation of citizens. This competition would not be happening without the long-standing support of our sponsors – particularly the Bar Council who have championed this immersive learning opportunity since for nearly three decades. At the National Final The Bar Council will be represented by its CEO, Malcolm Cree; Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar Council; and Sam Mercer, Head of Policy, Equality and Diversity; with Sarah Ramsay, Chair of the Bar of Northern Ireland also in attendance. We are also delighted that Struan Campbell from Inner Temple, Andrew Smith from Lincoln’s Inn and Kenneth Campbell QC from the Faculty of Advocates will be with us to run their eyes over some of the brightest talent of the future.

It is also important to mention Brick Court Chamber’s involvement in the competition. Their social responsibility programme has allowed us to disperse travel bursaries to the finalists to relieve some of the financial burden of schools traveling to the Edinburgh finale. As a competition originally conceived to expose more young people from state schools to a possible future career in the legal sector, we are deeply grateful to all our partners who share our wider vision of: promoting public legal education in schools, supporting faith in public institutions and boosting social mobility.

A huge thanks goes to Edinburgh Court of Session for hosting the National Final as well as HMCTS and all the Crown Courts that supported our regional heats this year. I am very grateful and appreciative to the huge pool of volunteers involved in the competition: from student volunteers, to barrister mentors, to judges. We simply could not run this competition without your support!

For this year’s catering, we have decided to opt for a local social enterprise called Social Bite. They are on a mission to build a collaborative movement to end homeliness in Scotland and we are glad they agreed to be part of our team for the day as Young Citizens hopes to give something back to the host city.

Next steps:

  • You can keep informed of events by following developments on our social media throughout the 23rd March using @YoungCitizensUK  #MockTrials
  • If you are teacher or someone working within the legal profession and keen to get involved in next year’s competition please connect with me.